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Chain binds ‘Ite ‘Uhila to his homeland

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

Photos by Mary Lyn Fonua

Kalisolaite (‘Ite) ‘Uhila performs at the 'Atenisi-TCC Democracy Art Exhibition. 26 June 2014.

A special endurance performance by visiting artist Kalisolaite (‘Ite) ‘Uhila tonight concluded the ten days of events at the Festival of Democracy in Tonga at 'Atenisi Institute in Nuku‘alofa.

Wrestling with a heavy chain, embedded in the mud of the ‘Atensisi swampus, the tattooed ‘Ite, dressed in the colourful Si leaves of a traditional Tongan dance costume, transformed himself into a powerful purveyor of food for thought. The chain at times weighing down on his bent back, was again thrown and uplifted, but whichever way he pulled and turned against the bond, the chain remained firmly connected to the land.

The Tongan born Kalisolaite 'Uhila, who lives and works in Auckland, is one of four nominees for this year's $50,000 Walters Prize, which is awarded bi-annually for an outstanding work of contemporary New Zealand art.

He was nominated for his Mo'ui tukuhausia, 2012, a performance artwork and consciousness-raising exercise drawing attention to the state of homelessness amongst Polynesian men in particular, in urban centres. The nomination stated that, “His body of endurance performance artworks undermines utopian values and holds New Zealand to account for attracting Pacific migrants to support a low-wage, manual-labour strata of the economy, where his work speaks vividly to the vulnerable conditions of life for a social underclass.”

Arts Exhibition

At ‘Atenisi, Sisi‘unuo Helu-Langi, the festival organiser, opened an Arts Exhibition with the unveiling of a ‘Democracy’ billboard. The exhibition sponsored by Tonga Telecommunications Corporation featured local artists Tevita Latu and Taniela Petelo, with Tui Gillies, a New Zealand Tongan artist who paints on tapa cloth.

The TCC's sales and marketing manager, Imran Zaki, presented prizes to the winners of a poster competition for youth. Havelu boys, Soafa Falevai (first), Sateki Niupalau (second), and Samiuela Lauti (third) won mobile phones.